Mobile entertainment specialists Tapwave are set to launch the Zodiac handheld in Europe within the next two months, with a price point and other launch details for the portable multimedia device set to be announced shortly.
In preparation for the launch, Tapwave has established a UK presence, with Andrzej Kasprzyk appointed as director of European sales, while Roy Parker has been named as director of international operations.
The system is expected to arrive at UK retail in the next six to eight weeks, and Tapwave hopes to see it appearing in a wide range of outlets - including a presence in both traditional games retail and in the PDA sections of more IT focused stores.
The Zodiac is a portable device based on the Palm operating system used by popular PDAs such as the Palm Tungsten and Sony Clie, but is optimised for use as a games and multimedia device.
While it retains the full personal organiser functionality of other Palm devices, it offers a large 480x320 widescreen display, an ATI 3D graphics chip, built-in stereo speakers, two SD card slots, an analogue control stick and shoulder L and R buttons.
The system, which launched in the USA in June, is capable of playing back music and movies as well as a variety of games - with Tapwave promoting a selection of boxed titles, including Doom II, Duke Nukem Mobile, Tony Hakws Pro Skater 4 and SpyHunter, as well as a game download service over the Tapwave.com portal.
The sleekly-designed device ships in two different versions - the Zodiac1 being a 32Mb system, while the Zodiac2 sports 128Mb of built-in memory - and appears to be squarely targeted at older gamers and professionals seeking to upgrade their PDAs and snag a gaming system in the process.
The timing of Tapwave's launch in Europe is also good - since neither Nintendo nor Sony will be launching their next-generation handhelds in this market until 2005, arguably leaving the Christmas market wide open for a handheld device.
"Right out of the gate, European interest in the Zodiac has been strong, from consumers and media to distributors and developers," according to Tapwave co-founder Byron Connell. "The company is now ready to unveil our multimedia console in other markets, starting in the UK and then expanding from there. We are looking forward to starting a relationship with consumers and distributors worldwide."